Book Review – DEAR LAURA by Gemma Amor


Hello, my little goaties (or kids, I could say) – this is a spoiler-free review, so dive on in!

Every year, on her birthday, Laura gets a letter from a stranger. That stranger claims to know the whereabouts of her missing friend Bobby, but there’s a catch: he’ll only tell her what he knows in exchange for something…personal.

So begins Laura’s sordid relationship with her new penpal, built on a foundation of quid pro quo. Her quest for closure will push her to bizarre acts of humiliation and harm, yet no matter how hard she tries, she cannot escape her correspondent’s demands. The letters keep coming, and as time passes, they have a profound effect on Laura.

From the author of Cruel Works of Nature comes a dark and twisted tale about obsession, guilt, and how far a person will go to put her ghosts to bed.

Before I go into the review, I want to say that I do believe there should be a trigger-warning on this book, but I know that some people view even a vague warning as a spoiler, so I’ll put it right at the end (and I’ll warn you of when it’s coming) so you don’t have to see it if you’d rather go into the book completely blind.

DEAR LAURA is a novella by Gemma Amor that follows Laura from a terrible childhood loss to what will become the most significant part of her adulthood. Some people, I suppose, would try to lodge this into the ‘thriller’ category (because it has great merit – and whenever something that belongs in horror shows great merit, the ever elusive and pretentious “they”, out of snobbery, try to reclassify it as a thriller instead), but here at HGH, we have unanimously decided that this is a great example of a brutal horror story. It has all the elements – horrible creepy villain, vulnerable but strong and relatable protagonist, questions of the most unpleasant kind to be answered, and most of all, it gives you the ick. You know, the ick.

Now, unless the book in question can be considered nothing but an insulting blight on the genre (and Angry Goat usually takes those unpleasantries off my hands), I’ll probably like it. I love to be frightened by what I’m reading, but not much frightens me. However, I’ll consider a horror book a shining success if the author can make me feel uncomfortable for an extended amount of time, and the book will get extra brownie points if I’m creeped out too. DEAR LAURA ticks all the boxes. But I’m not a sycophant, and I do have some criticisms so let’s start with those…

The book opens with writing that I would describe as nothing less than glorious – it’s descriptive and interesting, and informative and mysterious at the same time. Two paragraphs in, I was hooked, and there were already questions that I wanted the answers to. However (and I am nitpicking here), the further I got into the book, the more I noticed the presence of what I consider a cardinal writing sin – the breaking of the ‘show, don’t tell’ rule.

I’ll give you an example:

“She carried on working, but her habits changed. She switched to day-shifts, so that more staff were on site, and even then, often called in sick, feeling too afraid to leave the house.’

Now, I know I know, this isn’t that bad (if it’s even bad at all), but these sorts of quick descriptions came up a lot, and it made the story feel a bit rushed. I would have preferred Amor to take her time, especially with Laura’s mental decline. I would have loved to have seen Laura living in increasingly elevated levels of fear and paranoia, fleshed out over several chapters, being shown small changes to how she manages work and her social life over a period of time as things escalate, rather than just being fed two sentences that cover several weeks/months. It makes the point perfectly well, and concisely paints a picture, but damn it – I wanted to see it! The reason this was such an annoyance to me was because I was enjoying the story so much. I kept thinking ‘whoooaaaa Gemma, slow down, I’m hurtling towards the end here and I want more time in this world!’ I don’t know what that says about me – the world is horrid. However (and to argue with my own point here), this book is a novella, after all. Had it disposed of its narrative style in favour of fleshing every detail out, as I like (I blame Stephen King for this preference), it would have been a much longer book, which may have obliterated its excellent pacing. That being said, if this story were fleshed out into a full novel, I’d definitely be along for the ride.

Now on to the other things I like:

The pacing, as I said, is excellent. This book is a real page-turner that I got through in one sitting, with Amor upping the ante with each passing chapter. It kept me asking questions but the way information is presented and revealed kept me hooked. Plus, the answers to the questions are satisfying.

The story/concept itself isn’t anything massively original (but certainly isn’t a carbon-copy of anything else), but it is intriguing, gave me people to root for, and it’s told well. As Stephen King says, eggs are eggs but there’s always a new way to fix eggs.

I can’t talk about the ending at all because I’m too afraid of accidentally revealing spoilers. But yes, ending good.

And here are the things I LOVED:

. The format, oh the format! I love love LOVE it when chapters are divided somehow into segments. This story switches between young Laura and adult Laura, which always made me excited to know what was going to happen in the next chapter because following two timelines out of linear order is always fun. Additionally, the use of the ‘Dear Laura’ letters added that extra little something special to break up the chapters themselves, and also provided me with a switch between third and first (sort of) person perspectives.

. The writing style. Gemma Amor is a beautiful writer with a strong narrative voice, who balances horror and sublime sentence structure and word choices without being pretentious. Her phrasing and composition were an absolute joy to read, and in my opinion, this is the work of an intelligent and sophisticated writer who’s able to be simultaneously ugly and beautiful.

. The cover – which is also the work of Gemma Amor. I only actually realised what it depicted about halfway through reading the book, which was a funny moment for me because it’s obvious what it is. The lettering on the cover reminds me of those Point Horror books I adored as a teenager, and the cover as a whole has a sort of retro horror feel to it – which is another of my very favourite things.

Overall, I loved this. I’d recommend it to general horror fans and in particular fans of real-world, rather than supernatural, horror. I’d also highly recommend DEAR LAURA to people who enjoy a quick, chilling read.

There are some I wouldn’t recommend it to, but this includes a potential spoiler in the trigger warning I’m about to give, so if you don’t want to see this, stop reading here! For more information on the author and her works, scroll allll the way to the bottom of the review until you see links.










Okay, so…

TRIGGER WARNING: Child abuse/Peadophilia/Child Murder.

Now, while the book does contain elements of the above, I do hasten to add that it is not explicitly depicted. It’s more implied/understood that this is the nature of a character, and though it did make me feel uncomfortable, this book was fine for me. I normally avoid this subject matter like the plague but this didn’t cross any of my personal boundaries, and I’m glad I had no idea about these things beforehand, otherwise I wouldn’t have read the book, and would have missed out on a great story. There are no outright scenes depicting any heinous acts towards children.

However, I did want to include this information because if you’re someone who is particularly sensitive to/upset by ANY amount of child abuse when you’re reading, then I might advise just giving this one a miss.

If you’d like to get yourself a copy of DEAR LAURA, you can do so here:


If you’d like to look up Gemma Amor or check out more of her work, you can visit her website here:


2 responses to “Book Review – DEAR LAURA by Gemma Amor”

  1. Great review! I loved this book. The content warnings you mentioned were certainly tough!


    1. She’s so good. I can’t wait to read Full Immersion!

      Liked by 1 person

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